People often think of a website as a one-time purchase: you pay for the design, the designer launches it, everyone high-fives, and you move on. Like most things in business–daily accounting, fleet vehicle maintenance, dusting the shelves, or following up with customer inquiries–a website requires routine attention to serve you best. Further, the web isn’t just some static being that sits and waits for people to interact with it; the web changes continuously.
Web programming is always evolving, getting better, more secure, and more powerful. Some of the tools web designers use to make your site better, secure, and robust also change continuously. These include content management systems (CMSs), like WordPress; payment gateways, like PayPal; and IDX feed integrations, like MLS.
Even if you purchase the most basic maintenance offered, here are very good reasons to purchase a maintenance package:
Many web tools require manual security updates. A friend of mine had a property management company whose website was hacked. The hackers took his entire website down and replaced it with a photo of a masked man pointing a gun toward the viewer. This is well-documented and does happen. He ended up paying his web designer several hundred dollars to fix it.
Having your website taken down isn’t the only thing that could go wrong. Mean people do all sorts of things: change your site’s information, reroute traffic, steal your or your customers’ data, distribute malicious code (malware), and a host of other things.
Third-party vulnerabilities are related to security updates. For example, on WordPress-managed sites there are powerful tools called Widgets and Plugins. Widgets are small info blocks that perform a specific function. A PlugIn is a separate piece of software that performs a group of functions. These are often developed and maintained by someone other than WordPress. While they improve the functionality of your website, they can also create vulnerabilities. Since these both run some sort of code, they will need to be monitored for bugs and security updates.
If you’re telling yourself, “Well, I just don’t want any PlugIns or Widgets,” then you are also saying you don’t want payment gateways, a Facebook feed integration, a contact form, a professional-looking photo gallery, or your contact information on the sidebar of every page.
If you want a hand-coded page (no CMS like Joomla, Drupal, or WordPress), that’s fine, too, but they cost considerably more, take much longer to create, and are far more expensive to update. Hand-coded websites are neither cost- nor time-efficient.
All reliable CMSs require updates. WordPress, for example, will eventually force its most critical updates to your site after it’s noticed you’re running very outdated versions of its software, but this is risky. The new version may not be compatible with some of your plugins or widgets, theme functionality, contact forms, photo galleries, or other tools that make your site sing. You risk losing all your data, or breaking your site entirely. Eventually, if your site has been neglected and only received these forced updates, it will break. It is like playing Russian Roulette with your website.
In fact, 27% of all hacking occurs on sites allowing WordPress to force updates.
Regular Backups of Site Content
Creating a copy of everything on your website is important in case you move your hosting, allow only forced updates to your site, get hacked, or someone messes something up while tinkering on the back-end. Without a recent copy of everything, you risk losing purchases, inventory catalogs, order histories, customer databases, messages, testimonials, and anything and everything else on your website.
Remember how I said the web is continually changing? This means web programming languages are enhancing mobile friendliness, usability, accessibility, speed–even the web languages themselves. Archaic or antiquated HTML won’t look clean or function as nicely in a modern browser, and some programming protocols have become completely obsolete and browsers flat-out ignore them. These may sound like fluff, but they are important; a poor user experience hurts your credibility–both to the actual users and to search engines.
You don’t realize the value of someone monitoring these tools until something goes wrong. Often, it is more expensive to fix problems after you’ve neglected maintenance because basic security must be updated before the problem can really be fixed. I encourage all my clients to purchase web maintenance. It will make your life easier, invoices less expensive, and relationships more productive.